Bioterrorist attacks are usually associated with airborne infections because of their easy dissemination and maximal effect on the human population. However, foodborne pathogens represent potential bioterrorist weapons, as the consumption of safe food affects every individual in the society. Most of the foodborne microorganisms can be readily isolated from natural sources and can cause severe outbreaks with a number of hospitalized persons. Biological agents, which may contaminate food products, are bacteria, viruses, yeasts, parasites, or chemical substances with microbial origin. They cause more than 200 diseases—ranging from diarrhea to cancers. Typical symptoms of food poisoning are abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, diarrhea, fever, dehydration, and others. Most isolated bacterial agents responsible for foodborne infections include bacteria from genera such as Salmonella, Shigella, Bacillus, Clostridium, Listeria, Campylobacter, Escherichia, Staphylococcus, Vibrio, Enterobacter, and Yersinia. In this chapter, we discuss the bacterial species causing food poisoning in the context of a potential bioterrorist attack. We review in a concise manner their morphological and biochemical characteristics, as well as the treatment and possible prevention measures. Popular examples of attacks with food poisoning agents and their impact on the society are also given.
Part of the book: Food Safety